Local workspace community Retro Creative is sponsoring 20 start-ups to exhibit at next month’s HKTDC InnoDesignTech Expo, 1-3 December. It will also co-organise the global start-up competition Get in the Ring, which will see entrepreneurs pitching their business ideas to judges and the public.

The selected start-ups will also attend a four-day programme, which includes pitch training, and participating in one-on-one pre-matches, speed-dating sessions with other start-ups. Bonnie Yip, founder of Retro Creative, explains more about the programme.

What is Get in the Ring all about?
It’s a global competition that aims to support start-ups worldwide in making connections with investors and business leaders. Get in the Ring Hong Kong is a regional selection event for the global start-up competition of the Get in the Ring Foundation, a yearly pitch competition, where start-ups compete for a place in the international final. The organisers approached me and asked if I’d be interested to put on something of this scale, so I said “yes”!

Why did you decide to bring it to Hong Kong?
I have been in the position of a struggling entrepreneur as the founder of Retro Creative and Say Cheeez (the company manages a model and creative agency), so I understand how difficult it is when you’re starting up.

I would love to take the Hong Kong start-up system to the next level, and I’ll be doing a series of events, so it’s more like a conference for start-ups and not just a competition. I want everyone to take something away from the event, and learn more [about the start-up process] from the seminars. The winner will go to the finals in Singapore next year to meet investors to fund their business.

What types of businesses have applied to join the competition?
We’ve attracted a wide variety of start-ups from around the region, including Malaysia and Indonesia, in addition to Hong Kong. The only prerequisite is that the company has to be valued at less than HK$5 million, which means it’s at a pretty early stage. We’re working with Pitch Perfect, which is bringing in their investors, and venture capitalists Prolific Ventures to connect them with a global network of investors from places including the United Kingdom, Dubai and Indonesia, as well as local backers.

Where do you think are the promising areas for start-ups in Hong Kong?
Hong Kong is a melting pot of cultures and ideas – that’s why there are many overseas students coming back to Hong Kong to set up companies. Other than Fintech, I think it’s definitely the shared economy; there’s a lot more people looking for solutions in this area. It can be anything – sharing your phone or car. Many consumer products and services can be shared.

How is Retro Creative helping start-ups grow their business?
We want to attract global investors, so we’re doing more outreach programmes where we can get corporates and companies overseas to build incubator programmes. There are more accelerators, but we want to introduce some others and increase the diversity. Hopefully we can have more of a bridge to the outside world.

Get in the Ring is the first outreach and, if it’s successful, I want it to be an annual highlight. We already have corporates that are very excited to join next year that weren’t able to this time. We want to keep this momentum going, and make people see that other than run a competition, we can also run a programme.

How has the start-up scene evolved since you set up Retro Creative in 2013?
I think more people are willing to take risks. I’ve seen a lot more people say, “I want to give it a try.” The evolution is definitely on the rise and the exponential growth is much more evident here than in other places. People are talking more about setting up in business now – you can find workshops about how to find investors, for example. Information is more readily available and networks are growing. There’s a confidence that comes from seeing other people doing it.

Why have co-working spaces taken off in Hong Kong?
I think there is a need for these spaces. The cost of running a company is expensive, and usually the biggest overhead is rent, so you don’t have to hire someone to work in the office and take care of your needs if you co-work. Plus start-ups especially want to meet other people and network.

I’d like to set up an initiative where co-working space owners can come together and talk about how we can build the eco-system, ensure we don’t have duplicates of the same workshops and put on workshops that really identify what start-ups need, and how we can get people’s attention overseas. Co-working spaces offer more than just a desk – it’s the ambience and mindset that makes them special.

Related Links
HKTDC InnoDesign Tech Expo
Retro Creative

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